Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Bankrate Score
Learn about the Bankrate score

This card can fast-track you to free nights or free flights.

Advertiser Disclosure: This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertising partners.

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express is beloved by points and miles maximizers for good reason. The rewards structure is generous, and the points are easily transferable to one of the dozens of airlines with which SPG has an alliance.

This ranks among the most well reviewed credit cards on Bankrate.

Review

The top reasons to get a hotel-branded credit card are because you:

  • Are a frequent guest at properties within that hotel’s portfolio.
  • Want to earn free stays.

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express goes further than most hotel cards, though, because of its generous redemption options. Not only can you redeem points for free hotel stays, you can book free airline travel, as well.

What’s more, this card boasts one of the most generous rewards rates of any travel card we’ve reviewed. Further sweetening this card’s appeal is a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints, worth about $500, if you spend $3,000 within the first three months of opening the account.

You’ll earn 2 Starpoints per dollar spent using this card on eligible purchases at participating Starwood hotels. Enroll in the Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program and earn 2 or 3 additional points per dollar spent depending on your status. And, since the merger with Marriott, the card also will earn 2 points per dollar at participating Marriott properties.

This card, paired with a free membership in the SPG loyalty program, can fast-track you to free nights or free flights, depending on how you choose to use your earnings. With one of the highest points values in the travel biz, the Starwood brand offers plenty of luxury options in its portfolio to use up the pile of points you’ll be amassing.

You’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Who should get this card

Frequent travelers who can stay within the Starwood portfolio — including Sheraton, Westin and W Hotels — stand to benefit the most from owning this card.

The card is also good for those who want hotel perks like free WiFi, and if you have Gold and Platinum status, free upgrades, late check-in and increased points earnings for your stays.

Advantages
  • Get a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints, worth about $500 toward a hotel stay, after you spend $3,000 within the first three months.
  • The points earned are flexible and can be transferred to the frequent flyer programs of more than 30 different airlines.
  • Annual fee of $95 is waived the first year.
  • You get automatic credit toward Elite Starwood status.
  • Terms apply.
Disadvantages
  • Starwood points expire after 12 months of inactivity.
  • You can only use the points directly either at a Starwood-branded hotel or you have to transfer them to a partner. The Starwood hotel network is not as vast worldwide as some other brands.
  • If you want to use Starpoints at a Marriott-owned property, the conversion rate is 1 Starpoint to 3 Marriott points, but hotels in the Marriott brand often require more points to earn free nights.

Fees and APR

  • You’ll pay a variable APR of 16.24% to 20.24%.
  • There’s an annual fee of $95, waived the first year.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when making purchases outside the U.S.
  • A penalty APR of 29.99% variable will apply for at least six months if you miss a payment or pay your bill late and you may have to pay a late fee of up to $38.
  • See Rates & Fees.

Extras, perks and using points

For every 20,000 points you transfer to a travel partner, you get a bonus 5,000 points added to that transaction.

When you redeem a four-night stay with your points at a Starwood property the fifth night is free.

Cardholders automatically get credit for five nights and two stays towards SPG Elite status, which grants increased points earnings, upgrades and other perks.

With this card, you get free WiFi at over a million Boingo hotspots worldwide and free in-room WiFi at participating SPG properties. You also get roadside assistance, travel accident insurance, access to a global assistance hotline, extended purchase warranty protection and mobile phone damage and theft insurance.

Points can be redeemed for free nights and upgrades at more than 1,500 resorts and hotels. Free nights start at 3,000 Starpoints at category 1 hotels and top out at 35,000 points at category 7 hotels.

You can also redeem points for travel on more than 150 airlines with no blackout dates. Exchange rate is 1:1 on most airlines.

How this card compares

Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card

This card offer is currently unavailable on Bankrate. To see more cards in this category, please visit our excellent credit category page.

Card Details
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at over 5,700 Marriott locations.
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at SPG properties.
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants, car rental agencies and on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline.
  • Earn 1 point on all other purchases.
Credit Needed Excellent
Regular APR 16.99% to 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. These APRs will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
Annual Fee $85
Balance Transfers Intro APR

Since the Marriott-Starwood merger, the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card is the most likely one to consider against the Starwood Preferred Guest Card. Marriott’s card gives you a free night in a category 1-5 hotel every year after your account anniversary. Unlike Starwood points, Marriott points never expire as long as you use your card at least once every 24 months. It mostly boils down to if you value the free night Marriott gives you more than the flexibility of the Starwood points. You may want to consider getting both of these cards for maximum benefit.

The Hyatt Credit Card

This card offer is currently unavailable on Bankrate. To see more cards in this category, please visit our excellent credit category page.

Card Details
  • Earn 3 World of Hyatt points for every $1 you spend at all Hyatt properties with your Hyatt Credit Card.
  • Earn 2 World of Hyatt points for every $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline and at car rental agencies.
  • Earn 1 World of Hyatt point for every $1 you spend on other purchases.
Credit Needed Excellent
Regular APR 16.99% to 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. These APRs will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
Annual Fee $75.
Balance Transfers Intro APR

Although it may seem like you’re earning less points with The Hyatt Credit Card than other hotel-branded cards, Hyatt hotels have a lower points requirement to earn free nights, starting at just 5,000 points. If you prefer the Hyatt brand, this card may be better for you.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Card Details
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Credit Needed Excellent
Regular APR 16.99% - 23.99% Variable
Annual Fee Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Purchase Intro APR N/A
Balance Transfers Intro APR N/A

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card’s hefty sign-up bonus, boosted redemption value when using the Chase portal, and a generous rewards program make this card a stand-out among travel rewards cards offering big value for minimal cost. Since Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be used for everything from flights to lodging to cruises, this also makes it one of the most flexible redemption programs among travel cards.

EDITORIAL NOTE

Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.